Bacterial Blood Poisoning in Hamsters

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 22, 2010

Tularemia in Hamsters

Tularemia is a rare infection in hamsters caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. This disease spreads quickly and can lead to severe complications such as blood poisoning. In fact, once a hamster contracts the bacteria from an infected tick or mite, it often dies within 48 hours.

Tularemia is also contagious to humans. Therefore, your veterinarian may recommend that infected hamsters or those exposed to infected hamsters be euthanized.


  • Dull appearance or depression
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Rough hair coat


Though rare in hamsters, tularemia is contracted from ticks or mites infected with the bacteria Francisella tularensis.


Diagnosis is usually made during a postmortem examination. Blood will be discovered in the liver and the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes will be enlarged. If X-rays of the hamster are taken before the infection becomes fatal, your veterinarian may also notice an enlarged liver and spleen.


Unfortunately, there is no treatment for tularemia disease in hamsters.

Living and Management

Though the general outcome of the hamsters infected with tularemia is poor, steps can be taken to improve the living condition of the affected hamster. Keep the cage clean and provide fresh drinking water and food for your pet. However, take precaution while handling a sick hamster. Wear gloves when disposing contaminated materials and wash your hands and arms thoroughly afterward.


To help prevent tularemia infection, improved general animal husbandry and use proper sanitation techniques. Minimizing the hamster's exposure to ticks and promptly treating mite infestations can also reduce the change of developing the disease.

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